Polar bear encounter on inland highway astonishes Labrador woman
A Labrador woman passed some unusual traffic on the Trans-Labrador Highway, in an encounter that put them a short sprint from a polar bear that was quite a long way from the nearest ice floe.
Chelsea Morris and her boyfriend were near Cartwright Junction last week while they were heading to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, when they saw something in the road ahead.
"My boyfriend was confused. He said, 'What is that? ... It doesn't look like a caribou.' When we got closer, we realized it was a polar bear."
As they closed the gap between their vehicle and the bear, they could see the animal was running down the highway.
"I was just so amazed," she said.
Morris grabbed her phone from the back seat, and managed to take a few pictures of the running bear before the phone died.
"It was going from side to side for a while, and then finally when I turned around to get the iPad -- thinking that I could get a video -- it actually scooted right off the road and in through the trees," she said. "I've never seen anything move so fast as that did."
Bear was 90km from coastline
Morris, who is from Cartwright and grew up on Labrador's south coast, is no stranger to seeing polar bears, but usually on ice pans, or near the shore. This bear was around 90 kilometres inland.
"We were so confused," she said. "I couldn't understand how a polar bear would be so far inland, and then we [saw] it running. Its paws were huge -- it was just like snowshoes!"
They've been eating all winter [and] they usually have, like, three or four inches of fat on them, and they're not hungry.- Biologist Trish Nash
Biologist Trish Nash says it's an unusual sight in that area, but not unheard of.
Polar bears travel south on pack ice, carried by ocean currents. When the ice hits the mainland, the bears move off and head back up north.
"I don't know if he's walked from the coastline in, or if he came up from Sandwich Bay on some ice, and landed in there," said Nash.
Nash said the bear is not in danger, and is not lost, either.
"At this time of the year, they are fat," Nash said. "They've been eating all winter [and] they usually have, like, three or four inches of fat on them, and they're not hungry."
Her advice, if you encounter a polar bear while driving down the road?
"If it's not bothering anyone, and if it's not in any community doing any harm, then you just let it go," Nash said.
"No one should bother it. It's in an isolated area, and people should just let it go on its merry way."